Cost of medicines and new rules on pharmacy transfers

In Portugal, information on the cost of medicines provided by pharmacies is now more transparent, as are the rules on the transfer of pharmacies within the same municipality or neighboring municipalities.
Articles 26/03/2024

In Portugal, Decree-Law no. 128/2023 of December 26th, issued by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, has made the information on the costs of medicines provided by pharmacies more transparent and changed the rules on the location transfer of pharmacies, either within the same municipality or to neighboring municipalities.

Since January 2nd, 2024, as a way of making the amount of reimbursement by the National Health Service clearer, valuing the effort made to provide people with access to medicines, as well as informing users of the price actually paid for the medicine, pharmacies are obliged to make available on the invoice or bill/receipt issued, namely, the retail price; the reference price, if applicable; the percentage of the Portuguese State’s contribution to the retail price; the cost borne by the Portuguese State; and the cost borne by the user.

As for transferring the location of a pharmacy within the same municipality, it is also a legal requirement since January 2nd, 2024, that another pharmacy is within 1000 metres of its current location (unless the pharmacy has been under the Exceptional Operating Regime for the last three years immediately preceding the date of submission of the transfer request) and, at the destination location, the minimum distance from other pharmacies is 500 metres (instead of the previous legal distance of 350 metres).

As an exception to the rule, it is permitted to transfer the location of a pharmacy to a distance of less than 500 metres at the destination location, provided that the transfer does not result in greater geographical proximity between the pharmacy being transferred and those existing at the destination location.

Furthermore, the nearest pharmacy at the destination can no longer issue a declaration of non-opposition, which allows two pharmacies to coexist at a shorter distance than the legally stipulated one.

To apply for the transfer of location of a pharmacy, a favourable opinion must first be obtained from the competent City Council, which must take into account safeguarding the population’s accessibility to medicines and their convenience, as well as improving or increasing pharmaceutical services to promote health and the well-being of users, and this opinion cannot be conditioned on the simple need to open or install a new pharmacy or mobile pharmaceutical post in the place of origin or any other alternatives.

On the other hand, the transfer of the location of a pharmacy to neighbouring municipalities now requires the existence of a pharmacy at a distance of less than 500 metres from the place of origin (instead of the previous 350 metres) and 500 metres between pharmacies at the destination.

The new law also clarifies that the legal distances between pharmacies are calculated between the two closest points of the pharmacies, taking into account their external boundaries and not their respective entrances, and all requests for transfers of location that are not accompanied by all the documentation proving that the legal requirements have been met will be rejected outright.

The next step is to amend the Order regulating the procedure for transferring pharmacies’ locations (Order 352/2012 of October 30th).

The content of this information does not constitute any specific legal advice; the latter can only be given when faced with a specific case. Please contact us for any further clarification or information deemed necessary in what concerns the application of the law.


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